With several proposals on the table that could produce sweeping changes in the University of California, officials are seeking feedback as they search for ways to more efficiently manage the 10-campus education system.
The UC Commission on the Future — made up of five working groups that address systemwide issues including funding, affordability and curriculum — presented a series of proposals for public discussion at the March 23-25 Regents meeting. Commission members’ suggestions included significantly increasing the number of nonresident students enrolled, implementing three-year undergraduate degrees, using multiyear fee scheduling and allowing more online instruction.
According to UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, these proposals will see several more stages of deliberation before further recommendations are made at July’s Regents meeting. Students are encouraged to submit their comments during this process online at http://ucfuture.universityofcalifornia.edu/feedback.html.
“There is much more work to be done in the weeks ahead to refine and expand on these initial draft recommendations, and to engage in a vigorous process of consultation with faculty, students, staff and the public,” Yang said. “The commission will be soliciting feedback over the next two months before presenting a prioritized first round of recommendations to the UC Board of Regents for their consideration in July.”
According to a press release, Russell Gould, a co-chair of the commission and chair of the UC Board of Regents, said the proposals show the types of changes the UC may have to undergo in coming years to confront its deficit.
“Some recommendations you may like a lot, some you might think are terrible,” Gould said. “But these are important ideas to put forward.”
UCSB Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas, co-chair of the funding strategies group, said in an e-mail that his working group, as well as the size and shape group, advocated increasing non-resident enrollment because the UC already supports nearly 15,000 students that the state does not pay for.
“If part of these were replaced by non-residents, each of which pays a non-resident tuition on top of [Education and Registration] fees, it would increase revenues to UC without displacing California students that are funded by the state,” Lucas wrote.
Trimming down an undergraduate degree from four to three years could potentially save students money and open up space on campuses, UC officials say, although it would not actually generate any additional revenue for the UC.
Despite the fact that in 2005 only 905 — 2.9 percent of undergraduates — had matriculated after three years, Lucas said a three-year degree would be possible, but demanding.
“Accomplishing a three-year degree would require significant utilization of the summer term (which can be less expensive, because fees are based on units actually taken) and in a time of rising fees, eliminates the fee increase of the fourth year,” Lucas wrote.
A third major proposal from the COTF considered the use of multi-year fee schedules. According to a UCOP press release, the schedule would be based on a multi-year UC budget forecast so that fees could be set at the same level throughout an undergraduate student’s career.
“This provides an opportunity for parents and students to plan their financial needs over the four-year time span of an undergraduate degree,” Lucas said.
Lastly, the commission proposed expanding the amount of online instruction incorporated into a UC education. Members of the commission said more online classes could cut costs and broaden access to the UC, although many voiced concerns about online instruction lacking the quality of face-to-face instruction.
Lucas said the topic remains disputed, although a pilot project is already planned for the UC to make online versions of 25 to 40 high-demand classes.